In Memoriam: Howard L. Kusnetz

Posted December 27, 2017

AIHA Past President Howard L. Kusnetz, CIH (Ret.), CSP (Ret.), passed away Thursday, Dec. 21, due to complications from a degenerative lung condition. Kusnetz was an expert in occupational health who helped craft the 1970 Occupational Health and Safety Act, which established OSHA and NIOSH. He served as AIHA’s 47th president in 1985-86. Together with his wife, Florence, Kusnetz established an annual award in 1987 that recognizes outstanding industrial hygienists under 40 years of age who show leadership in the profession.

Kusnetz began his career with the United States Public Health Service in 1951. His work for USPHS involved monitoring conditions in the uranium mines in Colorado and tracking nuclear fallout from atomic bomb tests. Exposure to radiation from this work is what led to the lung condition that ultimately took his life. During his USPHS service he developed the “Kusnetz method” for determining exposure to alpha radiation emitted from the decay products of radon gas.

After retiring from USPHS in 1971, Kusnetz began a twenty-year career with Shell Oil. For fourteen years he served Shell as corporate manager of safety and industrial hygiene. In the early 1990s he joined the Executive Service Corps of Houston, an organization of retired executives who provided specialized expertise to nonprofits in the Houston, Texas area. At ESCH, Kusnetz specialized in helping nonprofits with risk analysis and risk prevention.

Kusnetz received a BA in English literature from New York University, a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an MS in Industrial Hygiene from the Columbia University School of Public Health. In recognition of his dedication and service to the industrial hygiene profession, Kusnetz received AIHA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1984.

In a message to AIHA, Kusnetz’s son, Dan, indicated that Howard Kusnetz was to be buried in Jerusalem. “We will all miss Howard, his quick wit and wisdom, and his love for all who were his friends, family, and professional colleagues,” Dan wrote.

Sources:
AIHA Journal: "Radon Daughters in Mine Atmospheres: A Field Method for Determining Concentrations" (March 1956).
Executive Service Corps of Houston.
The Women of CourtWatch: Reforming a Corrupt Family Court System (2005).